Marketing in the Mode of the Consumer

In targeted marketing, the rallying cry has become one of “get the right message to the right consumer at the right time (for the right price).” While this all makes a perfectly sensible, best-practice doc (and would serve as a superb needlepoint homily to hang in the front foyer!), a big marketing challenge is to identify what “right time” actually means.

We’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out who we want to be (or should be) marketing to. We’ve gotten pretty good at defining and focusing the messages we want to put out there. But timing those messages to arrive at the perfect time is something that most marketers don’t have a lot of control over. I’m not referring to dayparting here, in which ads are positioned to meet daily cycles of need, such as reminding people that coffee in the morning is a plus or that people sitting home alone on a Friday night might be most interested in a dating service. Instead, I’m referring to ways to craft your campaign so that it will position itself in front of the right consumer at exactly the right moment for that message to have the greatest impact.

For example, if you are a restaurateur trying to bring traffic in through the door, a message talking about your amazing entrees or your “two for one appetizer special” is going to have a much greater impact if the person who receives that message is currently very hungry and thinking hard about a place to have a great meal. On the other hand, as soon as that same person is done with dinner, the marketer will find little to no reception for the exact same message.

The bottom line is that consumers are more receptive to marketing messages when they can see a fit between an offer and their personal needs. I refer to this as the current consumer “mode” and one that is often predicated by:

  • A consumer’s current biological state (which is controlled by homeostasis, covering things like hunger, thirst, sex, sleep, and comfort)
  • A consumer’s current environmental state (at home, in public, with friends, at work)
  • A consumer’s current emotional state (mood, levels of interest, appropriateness of message)

Not too many years ago, most marketers were able to focus on consumer modal behaviors based on the channels they used to reach those consumers. Quite simply, television lead to a home audience, while radio was a great way to reach people in their cars and trade magazines covered B2B opportunities. Today, the channels have multiplied dramatically and the rise of mobile technologies alone has meant that consumers can exist in several traditional modes all at the same time. For example, I can watch videos on my smartphone in all sorts of locations that aren’t my home (including my car) and I am also available to receive business messages when I’m not at work via email and other channels. I also have instant access to thousands of newspapers and magazines and online radio stations and music services, no matter where I go, via my mobile channels.

However, outside of the channels, what makes information important to consumers is how convenient it is to acquire. For example, I often check the weather using my smartphone while sitting on my living room sofa watching TV. The truth of the matter is that it’s the easiest and fastest way to get the information I want. The TV may do a more thorough job of telling me “why,” but I would need to wait for a specific point in time to access that information. Not as convenient and not the information I want when I want it.

What does this model mean for marketing? In the most basic sense, it means using language and opportunity that caters to consumers’ needs.

Create easier and faster (and cheaper) ways to help consumers find your solution by creating targeted landing pages that deal specifically with the solution. Offer your target consumers a strong reason to engage with a brand or offer that doesn’t include interrupting them but provides added value in exchange for their attention (coupons, special offers, timed deals, free gifts, and downloads).

Create ways that consumers can reach your message when it is absolutely most important to them. Channels like search, smartphone apps, and social media tools all do a great job at allowing consumers to find what they want when they want it.

Most importantly, step outside of your marketing whenever possible and honestly ask yourself if your offer makes things easier for the consumer and not just for you. Assess if you have created a message that will resonate with the right people when they start to look for the solution you offer (or if it is purely self-serving). And think hard about the best circumstances for starting a “conversation” with a consumer. All of these factors will get you closer to identifying and matching the best mode of consumer communication.

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